Tag Archives: Andorra

Why winter is the perfect season to visit Europe

Why I love Europe in Winter

San Sebastian, Spain in March

Yes, Europe in the winter is cold, but coming from the Midwest it’s not that cold. I loved traveling through Spain and Portugal during the winter months. It only snowed 2 days out of 3 months and one of those days I was high in the Pyrenees mountains in Andorra. The average daytime temperatures were in the 50s with nights dropping down closer to freezing temperatures. Many days were warm and sunny reaching the mid-70’s in the early afternoon. I actually prefer to walk around dusty city streets in trainers and long pants over sandels and shorts. Concrete jungles keep heat in and can be quite unbearable during summer months. The south of Europe does receive more rain in winter months. So pack a versatile jacket and sturdy walking shoes and you’re good to go. I recommend spraying both with waterproofing before leaving home.

Another perk of winter travel is that tourism during the winter months is at a low. Making it possible to explore less crowded cities and exhibitions. It can be a challenge to take good quality photos during summer months when thousands of tourists fill every last vantage point. Prices are lower during winter months as well. Making it easier to stretch the budget a bit farther. Once spring hits hotel rates explode. I went from spending 20€ a night for a good budget hotel to 50€ a night in spring. During peak season prices can soar to 80€ or more a night for budget accommodation.

Ronda, Spain in February

My last reason in favor of winter exploration is probably strange, but things smell less during winter months. Let’s be honest Spain literally smells like crap. I am not trying to be mean, but coming from a place with strictly enforced sanitation laws it was strange to see dog poop everywhere. Dogs use the streets as their litter box and probably some men too. No one cleans it up. People step in it on accident and crap gets spread everywhere. During the summer it stinks. The heat intensifies the rank. You can smell decomposing food in rubbish bins on the side of the road as well. During the winter the urine smell is much fainter. It took a couple of weeks for my nose to go blind to the constant traces of feces, cigarette smoke, and car exhaust in the air. I don’t think city people notice this as much as country folk do. Being from Michigan there is a constant breeze off the lake that keeps things smelling fresh and clean.

Have you traveled Europe during the different seasons? I would love to hear your thoughts on winter travel in the comments section below.

Andorra for beginner’s

An old stone church in the Andorran countryside
Andorra is a uniquely independent principality. It ranks 16th wealthiest nation in the world and has a population of under 70K (only 30K being Andorran nationals). It is a small landlocked country nestled in the Pyrenees mountains between Spain and France. The official language is Catalan, but 27% of the country is Spanish, and almost another third is Portuguese. Many French speakers live on the border of France. There is also a smattering of retired UK residence living in the countryside. Making Andorra a truly multi-lingual destination.
After reading other people’s blogs and visiting Andorra myself here are a few things I learned to make your stay more enjoyable should you decide to visit this little gem for yourself. Andorra La Vella is the highest capital in Europe. Known for its excellent shopping and tax haven status it is not a quaint historic town. Most of the buildings have been completed in the last 50 years. La Caldea is an 18 story hotel and spa with modern glass architecture. It was one of the highlights of my trip. For only 35€ you can spend 3 hours enjoying geothermal pools, steam baths, and jacuzzi.
The interior of Caldea

The villages surrounding Andorra La Vella contain charming stone houses with shale roofs. Some buildings dating from the 12th century. Everywhere you go in Andorra you are surrounded by towering mountain views. Some residents complain of claustrophobia. Renting a car isn’t a necessity as buses run every half hour during the day to both the slopes and the local parishes. Of course a car is always a nice option for reaching remote trails and such.

Pal, Andorra

People come to Andorra to ski, hike, shop, and bank. So if you’re not into any of those things you won’t enjoy it here. Andorra gets most of its tourists during the winter months. Vallnord is one of the world’s best ski resorts. I can attest to that. If the views don’t take your breath away then the seemingly  limitless amount of slopes surely will. In the summer months when the snow melts the slopes become a hikers paradise with endless ridge climbs for the sure footed person who is not afraid of heights.

The modern exterior of Caldea

The best thing about Andorra however is the people. They are exceptionally kind and hospitable. I am truly grateful to the friends I made during my short stay and hope i can return again soon. Andorrans are both honest and conscientious contributing to a country that is both safe and clean. In my opinion Andorra is well worth a visit for like-minded folk.